Have you wondered why employers choose to interview one candidate over another? Or make a job offer to one candidate over another? Have you ever wondered what will set you apart from other candidates?
I believe the distinction is made between candidates who have best identified and communicated to employers, their “competitive advantage” and those who have not.
WIIFM (What’s In It For Me), as a hiring motivator, has never been more true than today. Employers are bottom line driven. Candidates, who best drive home the message that they can make measurable differences and affect the bottom line, clearly set themselves apart from their competition.
If employers have a WIIFM attitude, don’t fight it – address it! What follows are six ways to appeal to an employer’s WIIFM mentality and give yourself a competitive advantage.
1. Making Money
Have your accomplishments improved sales volume? Have you introduced products to increase sales? Have you earned your company incentive bonuses through on-time delivery of products? Improved gross margins?
2. Saving Money
Have you reduced purchasing costs? Reduced operating expenses? Trimmed budgets? Identified or eliminated obsolete inventory? Outsourced processes at lower costs while retaining quality? Reduced on the job injuries? Re-negotiated vendor contracts? Lowered shipping, freight, delivery costs?
3. Saving Time, Gaining Efficiencies
Have you reduced lead-time? Production time? Reporting time? Have you reduced or eliminated overtime? Have you performed the work of two? Introduced systems to reduce look-up time? Boosted capacity? Re-engineered existing processes? Consolidated redundant operations? Reduced or eliminated paperwork? Streamlined reporting? Devised new processes? Reduced administrative/clerical errors?
4. Solving Problems
Have you trouble shot recurring product failures? Eliminated downtime? Scrap? Have you made customer access easier? Replaced outdated technology? Made information more accessible for team members? Have you reduced service calls? Improved product reliability? Improved product packaging?
5. Being More Competitive, Gaining New Customers
Have you initiated programs to gain market share? Devised strategies to gain first-time clients? Tapped into overlooked markets? Restructured pricing policies? Renegotiated contracts? Revamped marketing philosophy? Improved company/product awareness?
6. Retaining Customers
Have you initiated customer feedback initiatives? Set up systems to track customer purchases? Improved customer communication channels? Set up site visits? Improved customer access to your company Website. Streamlined customer reorder process?
As you take stock of your accomplishments, ask yourself one more question? What am I known for?
If it is solving problems, for example, that must become your mantra! It must become your trademark! Being a “problem solver” should be highlighted in every form of your job search communication — networking meetings, your resume, cover letters, personal introduction, voice mail messages. Coupled with researching an employer’s needs, your “competitive advantage” should be woven into the fabric of every interview response.
Your Five Step Action Plan:
1. Revisit your accomplishments and group them into the six competitive advantage factors
2. Rethink the questions in the six factors; you will probably have new accomplishments to add.
3. Rework your resume, adding your new accomplishments
4. Revise your Personal Branding Message stressing your competitive advantage(s)
5. Review your personal introduction. Does it highlight your newly recognized competitive advantage? Consider adding these phrases: “During my career I’ve been known for (competitive advantage)”, or “I have a reputation for (competitive advantage)” “Two or three accomplishments that demonstrate that (or these) are:” “Contributions I’ve made that would best benefit your company are:”
Leave no doubt about what sets you apart from other candidates. Leave no doubt about what the employer will gain by hiring you.
By Mike Brown, Director, MBA Career Services Smeal College of Business